HOW TO STAY SAFE WHEN AN EXTREME WEATHER EVENT STRIKES
When an extreme weather event strikes, it can be a matter of life and death. That’s why it’s important to know how to stay safe when the conditions turn dangerous.
By being prepared and knowing what to do in different situations, you can increase your chances of making it through unscathed. Here are some tips on how to stay safe during extreme weather events:
People tend to think about surviving extreme weather in terms of low temperatures, but high temperatures can be just as dangerous.
Heat can make you feel ill, inhibit your activity, and threaten your life. To combat the heat, you should act to lower its influence on you. You can stay in the shade and drink a sufficient amount of water to help keep you hydrated.
In order to survive the summer heat, acclimatize yourself to it. The sun and the heat will probably not go away that easily, especially if it’s summertime, so let your body get used to it.
The body takes 5–14 days to become accustomed to high temperatures.
- Find shade. This is obvious, but bears repeating: find shade! If you’re going to be outside in the blazing sun, try to stay under a tree or in the shade of a building whenever possible. It’ll help keep your body temperature down so you don’t feel like you’re cooking inside your own skin.
- Stay hydrated. In addition to finding shade, make sure you’re drinking enough water (or other non-alcoholic beverages). Staying hydrated is one of the most important things you can do when it’s hot out—not only does it keep your body functioning properly and prevent dehydration, but it also helps regulate your body temperature by cooling down your internal organs (this is why people often drink ice water when they get overheated).
- If you have no way to cool off indoors, consider going swimming or taking a shower. If there’s no water available, sprinkle water on yourself with your hands or a towel.
- Try wearing loose-fitting clothing made from natural fibers like cotton or linen so that air can flow through freely and keep your body temperature regulated better than synthetic fabrics like polyester or nylon (which trap moisture inside).
Heatstroke is a serious, life-threatening condition that occurs when the body can no longer control its temperature. Heatstroke happens when your body’s heat-regulating system breaks down, causing it to lose the ability to cool itself. The result is a very high body temperature, often greater than 104°F (40°C).
Heatstroke develops rapidly and progresses quickly, so it’s important to recognize symptoms and take action quickly.
Confusion or disorientation
If you think someone might be experiencing heatstroke, get them out of the sun and try to cool them down by spraying or pouring water on their skin and offering them a cold drink. Then call an ambulance for help. Here’s a quick tip on treating heatstroke.
Extreme Cold Weather
Extreme cold is defined as any temperature below 0°C (32°F). In this temperature range, exposed skin can freeze in less than 5 minutes.
Consider these cold weather-related injuries:
Hypothermia occurs when a person’s body temperature drops below normal levels. When your body temperature drops below 95°F, you’re at risk for hypothermia.
It can happen to anyone, even in relatively mild conditions. Hypothermia is most common among older adults, but it can also occur in children and young adults.
Hypothermia can be treated with the following:
◾Raise your body temperature: This can be done with blankets or warm liquids.
◾Keep active: Try to move around and get your heart rate up—this will help you stay warm and prevent further loss of body heat.
◾Reduce your exposure to cold air, water, or wind: If possible, find shelter and keep yourself covered up with blankets or other clothing items that will help keep you warm as well as protect you from exposure to further elements that could cause harm to your health or safety during this time period (i.e., wind chill).
- Frostbite becomes apparent when the skin feels smooth, waxy, and pale, and looks bloodless. Frostbite can also cause blisters to form on the skin once it begins to thaw.
Deep frostbite freezes muscles and tendons, which remain stiff even after one has warmed up. This type of frostbite should be treated by a doctor right away, or the damage will be irreparable.
For more information, watch this useful video for treating frostbite.
Surviving a Natural Disaster
Natural disasters are a part of life, but that doesn’t mean you can’t survive them!
Natural disasters are terrifying to think about, but it’s always better to be prepared than to not be. Here are the most common natural disasters and what you can do to protect yourself from them:
Have an emergency plan.
The most effective emergency plans are flexible and allow for contingencies; if you’re going to be out at school or work when an extreme weather event strikes, does your partner have a plan for getting home and contacting family members?
Have both adults in your household prepared a checklist of things to do? If you have children, does their school have an emergency plan in place?
These are all questions that should be answered, and plans tested and reviewed regularly.
Be ready to evacuate.
Be sure to prepare emergency bags packed with essentials that are accessible and ready-to-go at all times.
Make sure identification documents are included in these bags, as well as copies of everything important: insurance cards, birth certificates, deeds, wills—all crucial papers that could be rendered unusable or destroyed should the worst happen.
Also, include cash on hand in those emergency bags. ATMs may not be operational or even safe to visit during extreme weather events.
Know your local news and weather channels.
One of the best ways to stay safe during an emergency is to know what’s happening near you.
The key here is staying local: your hometown sources will be better able to keep you informed about what’s going on around you than national outlets.
Get to know which channels and radio stations broadcast emergency information in your area so that when an extreme weather event strikes, you’ll know where to turn for updates.
Keep a battery-operated radio handy in case power goes out.
Beyond the obvious harm, extreme weather can cause, it can easily knock out power to your home.
Battery-powered radios are much cheaper than portable generators (which you must use very carefully), and still, allow you to receive vital updates about what’s happening in your area. You can also keep them charged with a portable generator if needed!
Make sure you have plenty of batteries on hand as well so that when an extreme weather event is expected to happen where you live, they’ll already be ready!
Pack a survival kit for you and your family.
Your kit should contain:
First aid kit
Store important documents in a waterproof container and take them with you as well as any valuables.
Be aware of tornado warnings.
You can take the following precautions to stay safe in case of a tornado:
- Know what areas are most susceptible to tornadoes. Though they can occur at any time of year, the period between March and June is generally the most active. If you live in an area that experiences tornados during this period, it’s important for you to be aware of what warning signs to look for and what actions you should take if one occurs.
Remember: it’s always better to be prepared as best you can because a tornado can form without warning within minutes!
- Pay attention to tornado watches and warnings issued by the National Weather Service. A watch means that conditions are favorable for a tornado; a warning means that one is occurring or will very soon!
If your area receives a Tornado Watch, visit http://www.nws.noaa.gov/ and click on “Tornado Safety” under “Safety.” Then review the information provided there—you never know when it might come in handy!
- If inside during a tornado, go to your basement or storm cellar, or an interior room on the lowest level of your home (closet, interior hallway).
- If outside during a tornado, find shelter immediately! Go to an underground shelter, ditch, or low-lying area away from trees and power lines. Lie down flat with hands covering your head
Avoid being outside during a hurricane or other severe storm.
When possible during a hurricane or severe storm, it’s best to stay indoors and away from windows. If you have to evacuate, drive only if absolutely necessary.
Check the National Hurricane Center website for evacuation orders and other information.
If you’re on the beach, seek higher ground and continue monitoring weather reports as conditions may change quickly. If a storm is coming, do not be on the beach at all.
Get to the high ground if there is a risk of flooding
- Stay away from moving water—it is extremely powerful and will only increase in power as the storm worsens. Resist the urge to walk through it, even if you feel like you can handle it!
- Stay away from downed power lines. If one of these is near you, call 911 right away and move yourself and anyone around you at least 20 feet away from the wire.
- Move your car to higher ground if possible. Don’t drive through standing water either, because there’s no way of knowing how deep that puddle actually goes, or whether there’s an underwater current that could sweep your car off its wheels.
- Stay in a safe place until the floodwaters are gone, then call authorities and wait for them to tell you when it’s okay for everyone in your area to resume their normal activities.
Remember, it’s always best to be prepared. You can never know for sure when an extreme weather event will strike, but you can bet that if you’re prepared for it, you’ll feel much more confident and relaxed if one does.
When all is said and done, the most important thing is that you stay safe. And we hope these tips help you do just that!